The million pound project
Provincial Grand Master Dr A M Davison at the ceremony to lay the foundations of the Masonic hall at the Beamish Museum
The story began in 1996 when Lord
Barnard, at that time Provincial Grand
Master of Durham, invited ideas for
a suitable millennium project for the
Province of Durham.
A brilliant idea was accepted from
Dorothy, wife of Provincial Grand Secretary
Alan Hall, that a Masonic Hall could be
built in the reconstructed 1913 town at
the world famous Beamish Museum in
the North of England.
The town portrays, in exact detail, as
it would have been in 1913, with buildings
rebuilt and filled with genuine items from
the period. It includes a bank, Co-op store,
shops, a row of terraced houses containing
a dentist surgery, music teacher rooms,
with many other exciting memories from
the past, including tramcars passing down
the cobbled street.
An approach was made to Beamish,
who welcomed the idea, and a feasibility
plan was produced under the guidance of
Dr A M Davison, the present Provincial
After a discussion with Beamish, it was
decided to inspect a nearby derelict Masonic
hall in Sunderland built in 1869, to assist
in putting together a national appeal for
a suitable frontage. The frontage was
purchased and the stonework dismantled
for storage at Beamish Museum.
Eventually the project was approved
at a budget of just over £1m, of which
£500,000 has been raised by Durham
members as the Masonic contribution.
In the millenium year, 350 Freemasons
in full Masonic regalia processed through
the town at Beamish, to escort the PGM to
lay the foundation stone, watched by 3,000
people, a spectacle not seen in the Province
for over 70 years. Erection of the building
commenced in1994 with the 1869 frontage
being rebuilt by a specialist stonemason.
The building, when opened to the public
in Spring 2006, will be full of Masonic detail
and décor of the highest quality, especially
the main Lodge room, built in the form
of a double cube. Upstairs, the story of
Freemasonry up to 1913 will be depicted
and the visitors will see again, from the
organ platform, the magnificent Lodge
room with its stained glass and chequered
This exciting flagship project will allow
more than 350,000 people to pass through its
doors every year, promoting our openness
to the outside world and presenting a true
insight into our honourable Order.
Furnishing the building with quality
furniture and artefacts to the highest standard
is difficult and we are in great need of suitable
Master and Wardens chairs, two large pillars
and indeed any quality items for this massive
prestigious Masonic project.
If you can contribute or have any
information which may help, please contact
Tom Coulson on 01915 675365 (Province)
or John Gall on 01913 704 000 (Beamish).
Tom Coulson is chairman and curator of
the Provincial Museum at Durham